One of a considerable number of Army and Navy officers in my family was Benjamin Bayly (1797–1850), an infantry lieutenant. He was my 4th great-uncle, younger brother of my 4th great-grandmother Charlotte Elizabeth Dana née Bailey (1795 – 1846).

Benjamin Bayly was born on 5 November 1797 in Nenagh, Tipperary, the son of the Reverend Henry O’Neale Bayley (1757 – 1826) and Anna Penelope (Grueber) Bayly (1764 – 1837).

From the 1821 ‘List of the Officers of the Army and of the Corps of Royal Marines it appears that Bayly had joined the 1st Garrison Battalion as an ensign on 25 June 1816. Garrison Battalions were reserve troops concerned with maintaining defence and good order in troublesome territory. They were recruited from elderly veterans or other troops considered unfit for front-line combat. Bayly’s Garrison Battalion, formed in 1805, was stationed in Ireland from 1807.

With Napoleon’s surrender in April 1814 Garrison battalions were no longer needed. On 5 December 1814 Bayly’s 1st Garrison battalion was disbanded. For over four years, from 2 December 1816, Bayly was on half pay.

In April 1821, some seven years after he was stood down, Bayly joined the 21st (Royal North British Fusilier also known as the Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot as a second lieutenant. (A fusilier was an infantryman armed with a light smooth-bore ‘Fusil’ flintlock musket.)

From 1819 to 1827 the 21st Foot served in the West Indies and British Guiana, most notably quelling an insurrection in Demerara.

The uniform of the regiment in 1827 from the Historical record and regimental memoir of the Royal Scots fusiliers, formerly known as the 21st Royal North British fusiliers by James Clark. Opposite page 42 retrieved from

In December 1824 Benjamin was promoted by purchase to First lieutenant. On 2 December 1826 in Kingstown, the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, he married Mary Ann Cameron Wylly (1811 – 1892), daughter of William Wylly, the Chief Justice of St Vincent.

In October 1828 the 21st Foot, now returned to England from the West Indies, moved from Bath to Fermoy, Ireland. In June 1829 it was stationed at Mullingar and in 1830 in Kilkenny. In September 1831 the regiment moved from Dublin to Warrington, Lancashire.

Following this, the regiment was posted to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), arriving in stages from 1832 to 1833, to be put in charge of convicts.

The unit history explains its role:

During the years from 1834 to 1838, the Fusiliers were employed throughout the island of Tasmania, and at Perth, Port Phillip, Swan River, and Western Australia, on detachment duty in charge of various convict stations, and parties on public works ; only two companies, with band and staff, remaining at headquarters. The duties were incessant, hard, and very trying, but, on all occasions, performed in such a manner as to meet the approbation of the Government.

Benjamin and Mary Ann had at least six children.

  • Their oldest surviving child, Eliza Matilda, was baptised in Warrington, Lancashire in November 1831
  • Their second surviving child, Benjamin Peddie, was born in 1837 in Tasmania
  • Thirza Ellen was born in 1841 at Hobart
  • An unnamed child was born and died the same day in 1843 at Lagoon Bay, near Dunalley, 40 kilometers north of Port Arthur
  • William Chambers was born in 1845 at Hobart
  • Henry Vincent was born in 1850 at Richmond, Tasmania, (six months after his father’s death)

In 1838 Lieutenant Bayly, 21st Fusiliers, was appointed Assistant Police Magistrate at Waterloo Point. At the same time Benjamin Bayly, Esquire, was appointed coroner.

From 1839 the 21st was transferred to Calcutta, sailing from Hobart Town in February 1839. Rather than leave Tasmania, Bayly, now with the rank of Captain sold his commission and retired.

At the time of the 1842 census Benjamin Bayly was in Debsborough, near Dunalley, in the parish of Carlton, census district of Richmond. His house was of wood and brick. There were 22 people in the household.

In November 1842 B. Bayly, advertised for a tenant for a 1700 acre farm at Desborough, East Bay Neck. Bayly intended to move 17 kilometers east to Lagoon Bay.

From the Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.), Tuesday 8 November 1842, page 1

THIS FARM contains 1700 acres of very superior land, with an unlimited back run, nearly 200 acres are in cultivation ; the garden contains two acres, and is stocked with trees selected from some of the best gardens in the colony ; several large paddocks are fenced in with substantial post and rail fences ; it is abundantly supplied with water in the driest seasons, and is an excellent stock and sheep run, and the tenant can have any number with the farm. The crops and stock to be taken at a valuation. The dwelling-house, lately finished, contains nine rooms ; there is an excellent barn, capable of containing 1000 bushels of corn ; there are also out-houses and stabling suitable for the farm. To an industrious tenant every encouragement will be given, and he may have immediate possession, the proprietor being about to remove to Lagoon Bay.
Application to be made to the undersigned, at East Bay Neck.
B. BAYLY. Nov. 8. 2159

From about 1845 Bayly was employed as a visiting magistrate to Maria Island, 50 kilometres north of Boomer Island.

Benjamin Bayly died on 3 March 1850 at the age of 52. He was buried on Maria Island at Darlington.

In 1885 Benjamin Bayly’s youngest son Henry Vincent Bayly married Harriet Louisa Bayley, daughter of Captain James Bayley, a Tasmanian seaman (no relation or at least not a close relation).

Captain James Bayley and his wife Elizabeth lived at Runnymede, a substantial cottage a mile or so north of central Hobart. After their marriage Henry and Harriet moved into Runnymede, where their six children grew up. Henry’s mother, Mary Ann Bayly nee Wylly, died there in 1892, and his sister Matilda in 1899.

In 1931, on Harriet’s death, Runnymede passed to Hally and Emma, her two spinster daughters, and the building was divided into four flats. The Bayly sisters, who continued to live there, were keen for the property to be preserved for future generations, and in 1965 it was bought by the Tasmanian Government ‘for preservation and development as a State monument’. It is presently run by the National Trust.

Benjamin Bayly’s diaries were donated by the Bayly family and are now held by the Tasmanian Archives.

Runnymede in 1888. Photograph from Libraries Tasmania

In 1840 Benjamin Bayly’s nephew, Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana (1817 – 1852), possibly at the suggestion of his uncle, arrived in Tasmania seeking a government position. Unsuccessful, he moved to Victoria, where he was appointed by Governor La Trobe to establish a native police corps.

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